Coach John Cook added five new players to his program on Wednesday as all five members of Nebraska’s 2019 recruiting signed their letters of intent on the first day of the early signing period.
The class includes three highly-touted national recruits in outside hitters Madi Kubik and Riley Zuhn and libber Kenzie Knuckles as well as a pair on in-state players in defensive specialist Emma Gabel and middle blocker Fallon Stutheit.
“We feel like we’ve put together a strong class that addresses what we will need to
replace after this senior class of Mikaela Foecke, Kenzie Maloney and Brooke Smith graduates,” Cook said in a release. “We have five highly talented, high-character individuals joining our program, and we’re excited to have two Nebraska girls joining our team next season. The returning players from this year’s team and this class will be our team for the next two years, so this is going to be a core group together, and we are going to expect this class to come in and challenge for important roles right away.”
All three of the non-Nebraska recruits are ranked inside the top-40 nationally and all three were named Under Armour First Team All-Americans.
Ranked as the No. 4 overall prospect by PrepVolleyball.com, Kubik is a 6-foot-1 outside hitter from West Des Moines Valley who played her club ball with Iowa PowerPlex. She averaged 5.16 kills per set on .382 hitting while leading Valley to a 41-4 record and the Class 5A state semifinals in Iowa this season. As a junior, she averaged 5.5 kills per set and helped the Tigers make it to the 5A championship game.
Cubic competed on the U.S. Junior National Team and hoped win the gold medal at the 2018 NORCECA Women’s U20 Continental Championship. Kubik recorded nine kills and two blocks in the championship match against Dominican Republic
“Madi is undoubtedly one of the best players in the country,” Cook said. “Her experience with Team USA will be a very valuable addition to our program. With an outside graduating after this season, Madi will have a chance to compete for a starting spot right away. She is a complete volleyball player and can play all six rotations. She is an exceptional passer as well as a force at the net and could contribute to the program in more ways than one.”
Kuhn is a 6-foot-5 outside hitter from Fossil Ridge, Colorado whom PrepVolleyball.com has tabbed its 32-ranked player in the 2019 class. She averaged 3.7 kills while hitting .421 as the SaberCats made a run to the Class 5A state tournament quarterfinals. She played club volleyball for NORCO and became the first player from the NORCO program to compete on the U.S. Youth National Team.
“Riley has worked very hard to be a Husker,” Cook said. “We admire her passion and drive to be great. She is a player that will without a doubt have a positive impact on the culture of our program with her hard work and dedication. She is a highly skilled attacker and blocker and plays for one of the best club teams in Colorado.”
Knuckles, a 5-foot-8 defensive specialist from Yorktown, Indiana, is PrepVolleyball’s third-ranked libero and 37th-ranked player overall. She played outside hitter for Yorktown and averaged 4.2 kills and 3.9 digs per set while leading the Tigers to a 34-0 record and the Class 4A state title as a senior. Yorktown also took state during Knuckles’ sophomore season in 2016 and she notched 30 kills and 18 digs in the championship match. Knuckles played her club ball with Munciana Volleyball but chose to play beach instead in 2018 in order to work on her ball-handling and defensive skills.
“Kenzie is a phenomenal libero who plays for one of the best high school teams in the nation,” Cook said. “She led her team to an undefeated season her senior year, and we are excited that she chose to be a Husker. We believe we’re getting one of the most talented players in the country in Kenzie and can’t wait to get her in a Nebraska jersey. She is a ball-control machine who has the potential to be on the court right away.”
Gabel, a Lincoln Pius X product, is following in the footsteps of Sydney Townsend, a defensive specialist from Pius who walked on at Nebraska and grew into a key piece of two national championship squads. Gabel averaged 5.7 digs per set while leading the Thunderbolts to the Class A state championship game. She played her club ball with VCNebraska.
“Emma will be a great addition to our back row,” Cook said. “She is an elite passer and defender who reads the game well. We are excited to add another Nebraskan to our roster. Emma is someone we know will work hard and could have an immediate impact on our program. She comes from one of the best high school teams in the state and is a fierce competitor that will raise the level of our gym.”
The final member of the class is Stutheit, a 6-foot-1 middle blocker from Johnson-Brock. Stutheit led the Eagles to three Class D-1 state titles in four years with her mother coaching the team. Stutheit averaged 5.1 kills on .415 hitting as a senior and 5.9 kills per set on .433 as a junior. As a sophomore, she set the Nebraska Class D-1 record with 539 kills as a sophomore. She played her club ball for Nebraska One.
“One of the best middles in the state, Fallon comes to us from the small town of Johnson,” Cook said. “She’s a bit undersized but can definitely hold her own at the net. She led her team to a state semifinal appearance at the state tournament playing all six rotations. Again, we love adding Nebraska kids to our roster and Fallon epitomizes a small-town Nebraska girl chasing her dreams of being a Husker.”
Jacob Padilla has been writing for Hail Varsity since 2015. He covers football, volleyball men’s basketball and prep sports. He also co-hosts the Nebraska Preps Postgame and Nebraska Shootaround podcasts for the Hurrdat Media and Hail Varsity podcast networks. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.